Aneurin Bevan, the Labour Health Minister who created our NHS, once said: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”. The evidence of the last few months is that now is the time for action for everyone who believes that the NHS should be about people not profit.
Latest figures from across the UK show that over a million people have waited longer than four hours in their local Accident & Emergency in the last 12 months. Managers at the brand new Southmead Hospital have apologised for missing the most basic targets, and at the BRI these same targets have been missed several times this year.
Patients are being forced to wait for up to three weeks to see their family doctor. In Knowle the GPs at the highly respected St Martin’s Surgery resigned from the NHS because they were unable to recruit more doctors. This is not an isolated case, similar problems have emerged in Swindon and elsewhere in the West.
More and more often I am being contacted by constituents who are waiting longer and longer for operations, or who have been refused treatment altogether, an example of the increasing postcode lottery in care.
At the root of this crisis is the government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012. The Act has destroyed the local organisations which managed our NHS and it has substituted competition for collaboration. There are now a mind boggling 221 Clinical Commissioning Groups, 152 Health and Wellbeing Boards, the huge new national quango NHS England, four new regional NHS England teams, 27 Local Area Teams and 19 Specialist Commissioning Units. Alongside Public Health England, Health Education England, Monitor and the Care Quality Commission, the NHS is now so complicated and fragmented that no one knows who is in charge.
The present Government’s NHS record is cuts to vital services and a wasteful expensive reorganisation that they promised not to do.
My Labour colleague Clive Efford MP has presented a Bill to Parliament that will reverse the devastating top-down reorganisation. It will renationalise the NHS and save it from being dismantled further. It will restore the legal duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide National Health Services. And it will remove the dangerous competition and private care provisions which put private profits before patients’ care.
If the Tories and the Lib Dems block Clive Efford’s Bill, then Labour will repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 as soon as possible after the next General Election.
Our priorities will be to integrate social and health care, to focus efforts on preventing ill health and to provide genuinely personalised care to the 15 million people with long-term conditions. That is a vision of the NHS worth fighting for.
This article by Dawn Primarolo MP first appeared in the October 2014 edition of The Pigeon